There’s no question that networking is essential to growing a successful business. But with so many different networking events and groups, it can be tough to know where to start—or how to make the most of your time once you’re there.
To help you make the most of your networking efforts, we’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts to remember the next time you’re shaking hands and exchanging business cards.
Firstly, the do’s:
1. Do your research.
Before you attend a networking event, take some time to research the attendees. See if you can find a list of attendees or companies that will be represented. This will help you identify people you may want to connect with and give you something to talk about when you meet them.
2. Do dress the part.
First impressions are important, so make sure you’re dressing for the occasion. If it’s a casual networking event, dress accordingly. But if it’s a more formal event, take the opportunity to dress up and show your professional side.
3. Do have business cards.
Make sure you have plenty of business cards on hand to exchange with people you meet (and make sure they stand out). And don’t forget to include your contact information, website, and social media handles.
4. Do be prepared to talk about your business.
When you’re networking, be prepared to talk about your business. While this perhaps isn’t the time to arm yourself with every intricate detail from your sales brochure to your public liability insurance cover, there’s nothing wrong with having a 30-second elevator pitch ready. And be sure to practice it beforehand, so you sound confident and polished.
5. Do be a good listener.
Networking is not all about talking about yourself. In fact, it’s just as important to be a good listener. Ask questions and show a genuine interest in the people you’re talking to. They’ll be more likely to remember and do business with you if you take the time to listen.
6. Do follow-up.
After you’ve exchanged business cards, be sure to follow up with the people you’ve met. Send them an email or connect with them on social media. And if you promised to send them information, be sure to follow through.
And next, onto the don’ts:
1. Don’t be afraid to network.
Some people shy away from networking because they’re afraid of coming across as sales-y. But if you’re genuine and authentic, people will see that—and they’ll be more likely to do business with you.
2. Don’t try to sell people on your business right away.
While networking, resist the urge to sell people on your business immediately. Instead, focus on building relationships. You can talk about your business later down the road.
3. Don’t forget to follow up.
Once you’ve exchanged business cards, follow up with the people you’ve met. Send them an email or connect with them on social media. And if you promised to send them information, be sure to follow through.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
One of the best things about networking is that you can tap into the collective knowledge and experience of the people you meet. So if you’re ever feeling stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for help. People are generally happy to offer advice or assistance if they can.
5. Don’t be a wallflower.
If you’re shy or introverted, staying in the background at networking events can be tempting. But try to push yourself to step out of your comfort zone. The more people you talk to, the more likely you will make valuable connections.